Original Research

Prior trauma experiences among state patients charged with murder: A retrospective records review

Ugasvaree Subramaney, Nasiha Minty, Chad M. Himlok, Damilola Adetiba, Hamza Ahmed, Elouise Barnard, Yolanda R. Mahachi, Koketso Selekana, Jenna R. Smith, Samantha Iyaloo
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 30 | a2190 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v30i0.2190 | © 2024 Ugasvaree Subramaney, Nasiha Minty, Chad M. Himlok, Damilola Adetiba, Hamza Ahmed, Elouise Barnard, Yolanda R. Mahachi, Koketso Selekana, Jenna R. Smith, Samantha Iyaloo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 September 2023 | Published: 01 March 2024

About the author(s)

Ugasvaree Subramaney, Department of Psychiatry, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nasiha Minty, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Chad M. Himlok, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Damilola Adetiba, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Hamza Ahmed, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Elouise Barnard, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Yolanda R. Mahachi, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Koketso Selekana, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Jenna R. Smith, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Samantha Iyaloo, Research and Policy Unit, Council for Medical Schemes, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Trauma experiences, particularly in childhood, have been associated with criminality and mental illness. There is a paucity of research into the crime of murder, trauma and mental illness.

Aim: This research study focused on state patients charged with murder and sought to determine associations with prior trauma experiences, and specific types of traumas (sexual, physical and emotional).

Setting: The study was conducted at a forensic psychiatric hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Methods: The records of state patients admitted over a 21-year period on a charge of murder were reviewed and analysed with respect to sociodemographic variables, clinical profiles, trauma experience and victim characteristics.

Results: Experience of trauma in this population, with a much higher number of males compared with females, was lower than previous studies. Neurocognitive disorder was significantly associated with physical trauma. Physical trauma was found to have a significantly negative association with psychotic disorders, compared with other mental disorders.

Conclusion: Although trauma is common in psychiatric patients, the study’s findings are lower than previous studies. Noting the male bias in state patients that commit murder, greater sample sizes are needed to adequately address issues of specific types of traumas, the development of mental illness and murder.

Contribution: Exploring and managing prior trauma in state patients who commit murder is important while considering rehabilitation efforts, such that reintegration into the community and non-recidivism are encouraged.


Keywords

state patients; trauma; criminal procedures act; violence; mental illness

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

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